tv Al Jazeera World News LINKTV September 29, 2013 5:30am-6:01am PDT
>> as the after effects of last year's global economic crash continue to ripple out, unemployment around the world threatens to top 250 million. and in the poorest countries without social security, that can mean starvation for the jobless and their families. the philippines is ranked as a middle income country, but even so, the number of people going hungry here rose to nearly a quarter
of the population at the beginning of the year. when the worst happens in the west, the state, in most countries, steps in, and provides financial help. can poorer nations ever hope to do the same? and would that help or hinder their economies? thousands queue for precious work at an industrial estate in cavite, on the edge of the philippine capital, manila. among them is genelyn mercado, a 29-year-old mother of two. she's been out of work for 5 months. >> [speaking native language] >> she's looking for work in a garments factory, to help bring up her two children. but her responsibilities don't end there. >> [speaking native language]
>> mother of 3, juna evina, also once worked at cavite, making t-shirts and underwear for upmarket american brand, dkny. >> [speaking native language] >> genelyn, juna, and their families are among the most vulnerable victims of the global economic slump. they lost their livelihoods as asia was rocked by the crash. in the philippines, gdp per head,
or average wealth, fell for the first time since 2001, at the beginning of this year. manufacturers dependent on exports to the west were hardest hit. factories in the philippines shed 137,000 jobs. around the world, there are now growing calls for universal social security. dr. rene ofreneo is among the leading advocates for the cause in the philippines. >> in 1948, the united nations came up with this historic declaration on human rights, and, with no ifs and not buts, it declared that-- the u.n. system declared that social protection is the right of all workers. >> and if they need it anywhere, they need it here. the number going hungry rose to 23% of the population at the beginning of the year. >> they have nothing, no means to survive.
the lack of social security drives people towards desperation. uh, drives them towards-- to commit acts sometimes of lawlessness, or little undesirable social outcomes. if you have a good-looking daughter, well, sometimes you close your eyes, okay? you go to this, uh, club, you work in the club, you have all these stories, and they are repeated over and over. >> across the globe, only 20% enjoy adequate social protection, almost exclusively in rich countries. a further 30% receive some social protection, but half the world's population has no safety net at all. >> we need a more formal, universal social security that should cover all. >> the twin pillars of social security provision are free health care
and unemployment benefit. since the 1950s, there have been attempts to create a social safety net in the philippines. a basic health insurance scheme was set up, and people with formal salary jobs were given entitlement to sickness cover, severance payments, and pensions. [ringing bell] but there is no unemployment benefit, and 70% work in the informal sector, including small farmers, street vendors, and tricycle taxi drivers. their protection is even more limited. >> by definition, informal economy work is precarious and under-protected. and normally, workers in the informal economy do not get any form of protection at all. >> in 1997, asia suffered its own banking crash. that same year, the philippines extended pensions and sickness cover to some in the informal sector.
the majority were still left unprotected. and last year, when the west suffered its crash, the philippines introduced hardship payments for the very poorest families. the measures failed to satisfy campaigners. >> what they want to see is, all over asia, especially here in the philippines, is for our governments to adapt a social security for all. it means, as a basic and fundamental human right, every person has the right to social security. uh, security against injuries, against debt, against illnesses, against all kinds of adversities in life. >> but they have powerful opponents. many prominent business leaders belong to pressure group, minimal government thinkers.
>> when crisis erupts in the international banking industry, the effects are felt in all corners of the world. 12 years ago, asia suffered its own banking meltdown. and here in san isidro, a poor rice growing area, people were plunged further into poverty. the local mayor is sonia lorenzo. >> so they were so poor, and they felt helpless. they felt hopeless,
and they don't have any dream at all. and they felt that we are not productive, this is what we are, we are born like this, we are poor, and we will die poor. >> sonia was determined to lay foundations of prosperity which would withstand further economic shocks. >> we decided to respond to this crisis by prioritizing on health. >> she believed ill health was the fundamental cause of poverty among her townspeople. >> they are not productive because they spend most of their time, uh, taking care of one another, because if one is sick, the other one gets sick, and then the other family gets sick. they spend all their time, um, curing each family member. [speaking native language] >> as part of her duties as mayor, sonia goes to see the sick.
today, she is visiting farmer antonio imbag and his wife, gerelyn. >> [speaking native language] >> the father of 3 was faced with a $4,000 hospital bill to remove a cancerous tumor. but he only earns $1,200 per year. in times past, his family would have faced a stark choice: let antonio die, or be burdened with a huge debt. sonia was determined to free the people of san isidro from such cruel dilemmas. the philippines runs a basic national health insurance scheme called philhealth to help with hospital bills.
it's voluntary for people working in the informal sector. in the nineties, very few in san isidro had enrolled. sonia made the scheme compulsory. >> we went down to the community and convinced them to help us in this health program, because this is what you need, this is what we all need. >> the town joined forces with philhealth to subsidize annual fees. the poorest were excused altogether. a clinic was built to provide free primary care. residents now get free medicine, and visits to the doctor. the scheme paid 3 quarters of antonio's hospital bill, and entitles him to check-ups to see if he's beaten the fatal disease. >> [speaking native language]
programs like this are very important, especially to us farmers, because they help us a lot. i could have died if not for the program, because i wouldn't have been able to pay for all expenses from my operation. >> freed from illness and crippling debt, sonia insists the people of san isidro are much better prepared for the current economic crisis. >> they're happy because they're not sick. that's one--that's a major component in becoming productive. and when somebody's happy, and they have dreams already, they're hopeful already. they can be very, very productive. >> in part two, who's helping the people who have suffered in the current global economic crisis,
the millions who've lost their jobs? >> cavite economic zone is a modern industrial estate on the edge of manila. it was set up to attract foreign manufacturers, and help lift local people out of poverty. every day, thousands of young people queue for jobs. the factories prefer people in their early twenties. today, genelyn mercado is in the queue. she had a job here once, but was laid off 6 months ago. >> [speaking native language]
>> she and her tricycle driver husband are expected to support their two children, and genelyn's parents. >> [speaking native language] >> 29-year-old genelyn is not hopeful. schoolboy eugene evina fetches water from a pump in rosario, a nearby district which relies on cavite for work. his mom, juna, lost her factory job last august, as the global economy slid into crisis. the 37-year-old used to make luxury underwear for dkny. >> [speaking native language] we were told dkny pulled out, and that's why we lost our jobs.
there's nothing we can do about it. for me, it's really painful. >> she used to earn $30 a week, in addition to $12 earned by her husband, who is a fisherman. the couple provide for 3 children, and juna's mother in law, socorro. in the good times, she paid to have the ground floor of her house rebuilt. >> [speaking native language] >> juna's house is a vivid example of economic progress interrupted by the global crash. she abandoned plans to rebuild the upper floor when she lost her job. and that's not all they're going without. >> [speaking native language]
>> on just $12 a week between them, they've joined the millions going hungry. >> [speaking native language] >> on good days, they live on a staple diet of rice and fish, but storms often prevent juna's husband going to sea, and they have to improvise. they pour coffee over their rice to give it a bit of flavor. but sometimes they can't even afford that. >> [speaking native language] as parents, we feel really bad to see our kids go to bed without eating. but what can i do? i have no job. it's not like before. my daughter understands our situation, and just keeps quiet about it. but it's my son who usually complains. he'd say, "mom, i'm really, really hungry."
>> genelyn, juna, and antonio would all benefit from basic welfare provision. but can a country like the philippines afford it? the philippines spends 3.3% of gdp, or total wealth, on social security. dr. ofreneo, backed by the international labor organization, wants that to double. >> as a starting point, set aside 6%, and you can have a universal health, a universal social security system. of course, we have a long way to go before we reach the 30% gdp level that there exists in some european countries. >> the government says that's ambitious. >> we are not spending 6% of the gdp on social protection because we need to spend for other things, such as debt repayment, such as, uh, national defense,
such as, uh, infrastructure, and, uh, many other things. and our financial managers, at the moment, i think, are trying their best to increase the spending on social protection. i'll be the first one to be happy if they could do that. >> so how is the philippines doing compared to its neighbors? the asian development bank has compiled a league table ranking nations according to how much social protection they're giving to people who need it. prosperous japan comes first, providing 86% with a safety net. the average is 35%. the philippines provides for 33%, but scores much better than pakistan, on just 7%. but should asian countries eliminate poverty through social protection, even if they could afford it?
>> and there's no doubt that rural entrepreneurialism does thrive amidst poverty. even if it's two boys fishing rubbish out of a filthy creek to sell. the creek is used as a sewer. >> you need to strike a balance between protecting people and making them dependent on the benefits that you provide. that is a big problem, but that is something that has to be confronted. we are not at that point at all, and i think that that is a problem that i will take whenever that problem comes up.
>> in san isidro, antonio imbag returns for another check-up. the doctor tells him he's on the mend. he reckons the public health care he received will help him stand on his own two feet. >> [speaking native language] once i get better, maybe that's the time when i can go back to work again, and perhaps we can rise, and overcome our problems as a family. >> and there is good news, too, for genelyn. she got a temporary contract with a textile firm. she'll be able to support her children and parents, but only for the next 5 months. >> [speaking native language] i feel very happy. today is my lucky day. i must be very lucky today, because it's very difficult to find a job most days. >> but juna has now given up
looking for a factory job in cavite. at 37, she's way over the age limit. with barely enough money for daily survival, she lives with very little hope. >> [speaking native language] >> and she fears her children will get nowhere as well. >> [speaking native language] >> advocates for social security have argued that everyone should receive a minimum living income as an investment to help poor families climb the social ladder. >> the ilo has a concept
of what we call the minimum social flaw, uh, that we are advocating for all countries, and we're also advocating that this is doable and affordable. and that is a package of benefits for all, including the poorest, that would include a basic health insurance, a basic child allowance, a basic old age and disability pension, and then the last element is assistance to the unemployed, or very much under-employed. >> that view is heresy for their opponents, who believe it would plunge emerging asian countries into debt, like the crisis-racked west.
>> but it's the hungry who feel the full force of the global economic crisis. and the question remains, is social security the only hope of protecting them? >> it is time to rethink about this program, social security for all, but the social security for all should be seen as an instrument, not only to solve, but prevent future global financial crisis.